Let me bid an early and fond farewell to outgoing Metro Board Chair Gilbert Garcia.
With only weeks to go as chairman of Metro, Gilbert Garcia bounds down the hallway to his transit agency office greeting workers, talking about how much he’ll miss the place.
He’s not shy in expressing pride about what he’s leaving behind.
“This is probably the most successful board in the history of Metro,” Garcia said, pulling up a list of the agency’s accomplishments on his phone.
Metro leaders often leave the agency with riders and elected officials dissatisfied, with uncertainty lingering about the future, or both. The current board, despite some stumbles, leaves not with a legion of complaints – though there are some – but with a legacy of accomplishments shaped by some members who have departed, some who will soon leave and a few presumably hanging around for a few more years.
In the past six years, Metro has opened three new light rail segments, redesigned its bus system, re-established its financial footing and – perhaps most importantly – healed some of the political strife that divided the city and suburbs for years.
“It has to be a regional agenda,” Metro CEO Tom Lambert said, describing the mission of an agency that serves most of Harris County.
Previous boards often were divided between city appointees who make up a majority – including the chairman, often a strong presence over a weak board – and county and suburban city interests.
“Getting everyone in the tent has been a great thing,” Garcia said.
When Garcia took over as Metro chair, his predecessor, David Wolff, was the only city appointee to show up. He accepted a plaque as thanks for his service and immediately left. Garcia, in contrast, is planning a celebratory handoff to [incoming Chair Carrin] Patman.
“This might be the first time that’s happened,” he said.
There should be a celebration, because Gilbert Garcia did a tremendous job as Metro Board Chair, and he deserves a lot of thanks. Sure, there are still problems, as the story points out in painstakingly obligatory fashion. There are lots of things Carrin Patman and the rest of the Board can do to make things better (and yes, I know, I really need to write down what I think some of those things are). The point is that they’re starting out in a much better place than Garcia did, and can focus their energy on making improvements rather than putting out fires. So thanks for all the hard work and big achievements, Gilbert Garcia, and best of luck in whatever comes next.